Mortal Kombat X Review (PC)

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Mortal Kombat has certainly come a long way, having originally stirred up trouble in the 90s with its bloody graphics which, by today’s standards, look comical. With its tenth entry now released, Mortal Kombat continues to push the boundaries of good taste with its insane fatalities and, with a host of new fighters who are the offspring of several of the series’s veteran characters, introduces an element of filicide. As our review of the console version shows, Mortal Kombat X is a critical success, but will its PC counterpart hold up to scrutiny? Or is it a headless bisected corpse by comparison? Read on to find out.

My assessment of Mortal Kombat X on the PC got off to a rocky start upon trying to play for the first time, with the game committing suicide when trying to access anything in the main menu besides “Settings.” This, I found out later, was due to a foolish new experiment by NetherRealm to have the game’s assets gradually install after downloading the first 3 GB of it. It was a catastrophic failure, and while the issue has been sorted out now, its a bad mark on the studio nevertheless.

Past that, Mortal Kombat X runs and plays exactly as expected. Its silky smooth 60 FPS combat did not once flinch on maximum settings on a rig with the following specifications: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, Intel Core i7-4790k @ 4.00GHZ, Geforce GTX 780 Ti 3GB, and 16 GB RAM. Players unable to run the game at maximum settings have quite a few visual options they can adjust, namely Shadow Quality, Texture Quality, Antialiasing, Depth of Field, Motion Blur, Ambient Occlusion, Particle Density, Bloom, and Anisotrophic Filtering from low, medium, high, and very high.

Although Mortal Kombat X is a good looking game, its Unreal Engine 3-driven visuals are beginning to show their age. In 2011, its predecessor looked amazing and represented a massive leap forward for the series in terms of visuals. In 2015, these same visuals, with slight improvements, just barely hold their ground amidst an ocean of fierce competition. There isn’t much of a difference between the PC version and the console versions at first, but with SweetFX applied, Mortal Kombat X has a bit of an advantage in this department.

Perhaps the single biggest black mark on the game’s graphics is the inexplicable way in which it switches between an unlocked frame rate during the actual fighting and one that is capped at 30 FPS during just about everything else. Cut-scenes, pre-fight banter, fatalities, X-ray moves, and Krypt exploration are all depicted in 30 FPS, and I cannot for the life of me figure out any justification for this. The manner in which fights degrade from silky smooth 60 FPS to the juddery hell that is 30 FPS during their highlights, X-rays and fatalities, is a jarring transition and robs these victorious moments of the visual fidelity they deserve. Why NetherRealm choose to cap so much of the game to 30 FPS is a mystery, but regardless of the reason it was a stupid decision and a real disservice to players who have invested so much money in hardware with the sole purpose of running all their games at 60 FPS and over at all times.

Now, as far as the game controls, this next bit of advice is absolutely critical: Play this game on a controller, not your keyboard. This is probably something that goes without a saying with all fighting games on the PC, but it especially applies to MK X. In addition to the numerous special movies and fatalities that require the smoothness of a D-pad, the game also has a number of defensive moves such as counters and meter burns that advanced players will absolutely need. Played on a keyboard, things become confusing very quickly, as remembering all the button combinations is much harder to do on a keyboard versus a controller. It doesn’t help that the game’s movelist represents movement keys as W, A,S and D, or whatever you’ve mapped them to, rather than left, right, down and up. It makes learning moves on the keyboard an exercise in futility. If you have an old Xbox 360 controller lying around, use that to play Mortal Kombat X, and if you don’t, it is highly, highly recommended that you seek one out.

Unfortunately, a pretty significant bug is currently proving to be a hindrance to MK X on the PC. If you try to remap your controls on a controller, the game crashes right away. This problem appears to be universal to all players and there’s simply no way to fix it at the moment. It’s a huge problem to players like myself who hold the controller in different ways and thus require different button mappings, and it is utterly beyond me how such an obvious bug slipped through NetherRealm’s fingers.

The game is also fairly prone to freezing during actual gameplay. Just within my first six hours of play, I experienced at least three instances of freezing, all of which occurred when I was about to conquer one of the tower modes and receive a significant payment of Koins. Mortal Kombat X for the most part has few technical issues, but the few of them it does have are quite catastrophic.

Mortal Kombat X in the end is an excellent fighting game, as many will tell you. It is not, however, the greatest PC Port, as it lacks any clear advantages over its console counterparts and also has a number of technical problems that are unique to the platform. If you happen to have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, you may as well get the game for those platforms. You should only get MK X for the PC if you have neither of those two consoles. At the end of the day, the fighting genre really is the domain of the console, and Mortal Kombat X doesn’t do anything to change that. It’s not quite a headless bisected corpse compared to its Xbox One and PS4 brethren, but it is headless.

7/10

+Visuals are slightly superior when enhanced with SweetFX

+Silky smooth framerate during fights is unflinching

-Framerate cap during fatalities, X-rays and cutscenes is idiotic

-Keyboard controls are inadequate

-Technical problems cause crashing

Kerwin Tsang